A beautiful portrait of the magnetic artist and educator who played with Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, and many others.
Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean is a true jazz legend, but during the filming of Ken Levis’ Jackie McLean On Mars, he was more of an educator than a working musician. In the early scenes of the film, McLean is asked how he felt about being a legend, and replies, “I feel like an exploited, poor musician in 1976, if you want to know how I feel, and I also feel like a professor of history at the University of Hartford. If I feel good about anything, it’s about being able to turn down jobs that are offered to me for scale and below… that’s what I feel good about.”
The doc features some incredible, candid footage of McLean in his element as an educator. In one scene, he’s seen joyfully conducting a group of children as they count, directing each number as if it were a note in a composition. In another, he gets into a heated discussion with university students on how to work within the commercial music industry, the importance of preserving jazz as American classical music, and Sun Ra.